New York, New York: Sinatra had it right

Spring has finally come to the big apple and it is time to forgive the city anything.

Brooklyn New York

When Jeremy and I first arrived on New Year’s Eve, we had sublet a beautiful but miniscule space in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. The snow had formed 4-foot walls down the semi-ploughed roads and we were paying three times our old rent in Chicago. It was a baptism of fire and there were times when we questioned our sanity. New York had been a dream, an east coast adventure and a chance to live in the pulsing heart of the publishing and business world. As we hibernated in our apartment and gave up on any sort of privacy we wondered if the city was too much for us, too expensive, too gritty.

Last Tuesday, teaching my first class on public speaking (here is the next one), I played a spontaneous speaking game with my students. In their own way each of them told us a story about their New York, the city they called home, good or bad. One hated and loved Times Square in equal measure, one told us about a crazy saxophonist on the subway with questionable personal hygiene and one told us about her apartment nightmare living with a dominatrix housemate.

This city is like marmite, you love it or hate it, and sometimes you do both at the same time, but once it gets under your skin it is hard to shake off. Today, sitting in our apartment with the sun shining through my window, I love it. I love the beauty of my neighborhood, the old Italian men who sit on their stoops every day, the morning coffee at my local café, the bookseller down the road who has used tomes scaling the walls and spilling out on to the sidewalk.

Central Park New York

Of all the cities I have been to, nowhere has the sheer diversity of New York. It is hard to beat the experience of all that variation than from the back of the bike. Brooklyn and Queens have great bike rides that I will tell you about some other time, but my New York story, the New York journey that I love the most is the one that takes me from our place in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, to the best bagel I have ever eaten on 107th st on the Upper West side of Manhattan. It is not a short bike ride but it is an ideal way to spend a Sunday in the city.

The rush of adrenaline as cars screech past me on midtown Manhattan’s 6th Ave, the intense gaze at each parked car for fear of a door flying out into my path, the joy ride up central park, the in-line skaters, the table tennis players in Tompkins Square Park, the mysterious Chinese gamblers in Columbus Park. On top of it all is the food. In my mind, cycling 15 city miles entitles me to some treats on the way. There are hundreds of places on route but here are a few favorites:

1. Ted and Honey – fueling up with a breakfast sandwich and an iced coffee in Carroll Gardens.

Ted and honey

Image: Cobble Hill Blog

2. Grabbing a few biscotti from a cart here in Little Italy after rolling over the Brooklyn Bridge.

3. The Pickle Guys – if you like pickles, my favorite is the somewhat controversial pickled pineapple but you’re never short of choice. If you’re not so into pickles and prefer your treats a touch sweeter, check out the lower east side location of the Doughnut Plant across the street.

Pickle guys

Image: Robbie Virus

Doughnut plant

Moishe’s bake shop – anything is good for a pastry picnic in Tompkins Square Park.

Moishe's bake shop

The grand finale of them all is the best bagel I have ever tasted. I realize that some people are partial to H&H but we were introduced to Absolute Bagel by a friend and I think my loyalty may already have been forged. An everything bagel, hot out of the oven, with a thick layer of white fish spread…it gets me on my bike every Sunday.

Absolute bagel

Image: Carnivore and Vegetarian

Tell me a story…do you have a favorite New York place, food mecca or journey?

9 thoughts on “New York, New York: Sinatra had it right

  1. How exciting! Can’t wait to see you and your lucky mum. We can definitely go to some of these places…the bagels are a must. Will have lots more food tour recommendations by next February too. Let me know if you need a place to stay…a friend rents a perfect little one bed in Chelsea if you’re keen.

  2. The love/hate relationship seems like a common theme of New Yorkers, and I’m so glad to read you’re making NYC your own! Coming from you, the best bagel you’ve ever had means a lot!

  3. This posting rings so true! I’m currently forging my own love-hate relationship with a city, and while I’m literally on the other side of the world, the joys and annoyances of city-life apparently are similar. Perhaps the inevitable results of a diversity of lives co-existing in one little space? However, I don’t think I ever have nor will see a bagel in Santiago. =(

  4. Hello Katherine,

    Another great post from you!

    What I have found interesting about New York is that the belief of if you ever should leave, you will always end up returning. There’s very few places, and you can count on one hand, the number of cities that have this quality. As a native of Long Island though, I never really identified with being from the city. Whenever I meet someone for the first time, I always say I’m a Long Islander, not a New Yorker. Yet every time I take the escalator up from Penn Station, I always feel awestruck. And when I stare at the skyscrapers, I just feel like it’s me and no one else in the world. And the feeling never gets old.

    My ex-girlfriend used to live on the Upper West Side, with an apartment similar to the one you described. It was painfully cramped, she had a roommate and the top bunk bed (!!!) went all the way to the ceiling. When I asked why anyone would want to subject themselves to these conditions, she walked me outside and said “Tell me what you see.” When I told her, she said “I have a 24 hour drugstore and supermarket one block away, and I have no need for a car. And I’m the center of everything.” For some, that works. Yet at the same time, the New York City lifestyle is not for everyone. It can drive you mad, chew you up and spit you out. But regardless, Old Blue Eyes was right. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. There’s a spirit that pervades the air and it allows you to know if you want it badly enough, you can make it happen.

    Keep up the literary craftsmanship!

    -SK.

  5. Anna – Santiago is so high up on my list of places to visit. I’d love to hear more about your love/hate relationship. There may not be any jewish purveyors of baked goodness in Chile but I imagine that there are lots of delicious treats.

  6. Steven – I can definitely see how Long Island and Manhattan feel like worlds away from each other. New York is definitely not for everyone…there were a couple months when I wasn’t sure that it was for us. But there’s something about the city, a pride in surviving perhaps, that is definitely addictive. Plus the food, the people, the buzz of everything is hard to beat.

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